We had talked about the Kavanaugh case all day. ‘This is weird to talk about, Mom,’ my son said at one point. ‘But I need to know this stuff.’ Indeed. Awkwardness is okay. Silence is not.
My son grew an inch overnight. Literally. He had asked me to measure him a few days ago. Five feet, three inches – same as it was at the beginning of the month. Then yesterday we were at the table talking and eating when he stopped suddenly, got a funny look on his face, and said, “I think I’m having a growing pain.” He pointed to his chest, “Right here, I can feel it! Like my bones just shifted.” I was amused, and tucked it away.
All day we had been talking off and on about the Brett Kavanaugh hearing for the Supreme Court.
This eleven-year-old boy cannot wrap his head around why a man would do what Kavanaugh has been accused by several women of doing. He does not understand why a man would drink so much. Why drinking makes some men mean and aggressive. Why other men do not intervene when women are attacked.
But we also talked about what it means to treat girls and women with respect.
Why it’s his responsibility to step up when other boys or men are out of line. We talked about strategies for helping, and how his kung fu lessons may one day be put to use if he has to come to the defense of another, especially a female. And we talked about boundaries with our bodies.
“This is weird to talk about, Mom,” he said at one point. “But I need to know this stuff.”
Indeed. Awkwardness is okay. Silence is not. If there is only one positive thing to come out of the travesty that has occurred over this past week when a woman was put on trial for being assaulted, and a rich, white, privileged, powerful male was enabled by his likenesses in a hall of mirrors that reflected his status and power, it’s that we are finally talking about the violence that men do. The crimes they perpetrate with impunity. And the shroud of secrecy and protection afforded them by their peers.
It’s so much worse than we thought. NBC News ran a story about unsupervised drunken parties and assaults at the Catholic high schools in the Washington D.C. area in the 1980s, especially Georgetown Prep where Kavanaugh attended. The stories of rape, shame, and the culture of silence are finally being unearthed. The truth needs out.
Dr. Christine Blassey Ford is the whistleblower on a wealthy, white, elite, predatory, privileged, patriarchal culture that has ruled this country for decades and continues to do so. This needs to end. As parents of a boy who fits all of the characteristics except ‘wealthy,’ it’s the job of my husband and me to talk with him about what it means to be an honorable man. Why he must prepare himself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for the kind of toxic masculinity he will face as he grows and enters high school, college, and adulthood. He took all of that in yesterday.
And so he grew.When he woke up this morning and walked into the kitchen, he looked different to me. “You look taller,” I said.
“Really? I feel taller! Get the measuring stick and pencil!” he said, running back to his room. He squared his shoulders against the wall, standing straight and true. I flattened the ruler against the top of his head and marked the spot. He stepped away and sure enough, he had grown. An entire inch! Overnight!
“See, Mom, I told you I could feel myself growing,” he chided. “You didn’t believe me. But I was right!”
In fact, he is as tall as me now. Five feet, four inches.
After church, we sat on the deck this afternoon, and he continued marveling at his growth, noting that he’ll soon be taller than me.
“What’s even more important is that you’re growing on the inside. Some men grow on the outside, but they never grow and mature within themselves.”
“Like that guy Brett Kavanaugh, right? He just thinks he can take whatever he wants, whoever he wants, and he’ll get away with it, doesn’t he?”
I couldn’t disagree. “So what have you learned from all of this?” I asked.
He thought for a moment. “We’re all children of God. We have to treat each other that way.”
Are you listening, Mr. Kavanaugh?
Leah D. Schade is a professor of preaching and worship and author of the book Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015). She is an ordained minister in the Lutheran Church (ELCA).